The Aware Baby
Publication Date:December 2001
Reviewed Title:The Aware Baby (Revised edition, 2001)
Reviewed Publisher:Goleta, CA: Shining Star Press. 271 pages. ISBN 0-9613073-7-4.
The title of this book, The Aware Baby, immediately sets it off from other faddish guide books being offered to parents these days to help them understand and care for their infants. There is nothing accidental about the emphasis on the nature of the baby as an aware, feeling person or on the great importance of the first frontier of human development from conception to 2.5 years of age. This book is solidly based on discoveries in the new science of prenatal and perinatal psychology. An advantage in this revised edition is that it has been thoroughly tested by parents in nine countries since the original publication in 1984.
Solter opens with a quick but competent review of child-rearing practices around the world and offers an alternative approach founded on the rare understanding that babies arrive in this world having endured a series of stressful events, yet knowing what they need, communicating these needs, and seeking opportunities to heal their wounds. The model she creates for parents, aptly called aware parenting, includes forming a connection with the child that is close and safe, non-punitive, and that accepts the value of emotional release. Is the logic not compelling that if babies are aware, parents should be at least as aware as they are?
The author is a psychologist and mother of two grown children convinced that parents are able to help babies work through their initial shocks in life and to thrive as healthy, happy members of the family and of society. She helps them with exercises at the end of each chapter. Significantly, the first exercise for parents directs attention to how they are nourishing themselves.
The book has seven chapters each organized around a host of practical questions parents want answered, such as: What can I do during pregnancy to enhance my baby's development? What are the benefits of crying while being held? What are the consequences of nursing my baby for "comfort"? Should I let my baby sleep with me? How can I tell if my baby is understimulated or overstimulated? Should I train my baby to be obedient?
If you are lucky enough to get your hands on this book early in pregnancy, you will be introduced to the previously obscure-but magically potent-period of parenting from conception to birth. And if you wonder where all this information is coming from, you can look in the back of the book and find the 51 references for chapter one, strong testimony to the science underneath the guidance being offered.
On the subject of baby crying, one of Solter's specialties (see her book, Tears and Tantrums), she will open your eyes to why babies cry so much in the first few months of life. Although pediatricians-the experts usually consulted about crying-have come to accept this "colicky" period as something to be endured, Solter provides new ideas and instructions.
Similarly, she tackles potentially vexing problems associated with feedings, sleeping, conflicts and negativity that parents inevitably face. Some of her views may surprise you. For example, tantrums are okay if properly handled, "it is impossible to spoil a baby," routinely suppressing crying may not be a good policy, rewards are a "misuse of power," and constant "praise can reduce the desire to learn." In all issues she is consistently respectful of the infant's process of learning emotional expression and moving toward the goal of self-regulation. She asserts that "babies do not misbehave" and recommends against punishment because punishment produces emotional, if not physical, pain.
Perhaps best of all, parents who follow these psychological guidelines can avoid ending up (as many parents do) in an oppositional, antagonistic relationship with their infants, blaming them for being perverse or for making life miserable!
In a final chapter on letting your baby feel safe, the author reemphasizes the overwhelming importance of attachment in the early phases of development. Parents are alerted to the hazards of separation that so often characterize hospital birth and day care in the first year. Why is it so damaging? Because babies are vulnerable and early experiences of anxiety, fear, or violence are a breeding ground for future pathology.
Soundly based on empirical research and great good sense, this book will doubly bless both the parents and their very fortunate infants.*
* For further information about this book and author, see www.awareparenting.com.